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Flyers' Danny Briere opens up about mother's death

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VOORHEES, N.J. – That long drive from Quebec to South Jersey that Danny Briere made alone two weekends ago was numbing.

The Philadelphia Flyers center spent a good chunk of those eight hours calling back friends who had left voicemail messages since his world had been turned upside down, but there also was a lot of time to think, a lot of time to start coming to grips with reality.

So many great memories came pouring in, but they were accompanied by the painful reminder that his mother was gone.

Nobody was prepared for this.

His mother was just 63, and she had no apparent health issues.

A proud mother of two and even prouder grandmother of four, Constance Brunet Briere had been so full of life and, as usual, spoiling others. When Danny arrived for a longer-than-usual visit this summer, she cooked up his favorite meal for the first of his many visits, shepherd's pie. And when Danny's three boys later arrived — they're 14, 12 and 11 —she drove lunches to them every day during their two weeks in a summer hockey camp that she insisted on making late in the morning so the sandwiches would remain fresh.

That definitely jarred memories for Briere, who says he used to head to school as a kid armed with the "Mack Daddy of lunches — two loaded sandwiches, chips, fruit, veggies, pickles, olives, cheese … you name it."

Looking back over the last few weeks, which have been some of the toughest days of his life, Briere decided this summer was a blessing.

Briere had done his best to look after his family after his mother passed on Aug. 19, but that time behind the wheel just after the funeral was an opportunity to do some thinking and shed some tears. He was alone for the drive because his children had returned to
with their mother, Danny's ex-wife Sylvie.

Briere always travels to his roots after hockey seasons to visit family and friends, but this summer's trip was extended beyond the usual few weeks to nearly two months. He got to thinking about making this one longer after realizing his girlfriend wouldn't be around at all this offseason because she's an
doctor stationed in Afghanistan until December.

"Sometimes things happen for a reason,"
Briere said.
"You look back and say, it was meant to be. I feel fortunate that I was there for the last two months."

Briere has a home "just a seven-minute drive" from his parents' home, and he spend time with them just about every day during this summer's trip.

"I was leaving on a Sunday and it happened a day before … late Friday night into Saturday,"
Briere said.
"I was out with dinner with my friends, my mother was with my sister and I got a call."

Briere's brother-in-law phoned to tell him that his mother fell seriously ill and had been rushed to a hospital.

Within minutes, Briere was at his mother's side. But when walking into her hospital room, he instantly knew his mother's condition was far worse than he'd realized.

"I could tell my sister was in shock and my dad didn't know what to do,"
he said.

A waiting doctor spilled the news:

His mother had suffered a deadly brain hemorrhage, and while she was alive in a coma, surviving this would take a miracle.

"The doctor was honest from the get-go:
'This is the deal, she's not going to come back.'
That's when you realize you have to try to be a rock … and you're also going through it yourself.'"

Two days later, she was gone.

"A lot of people would tell me all the time how proud she was, but to me she was just my mom,"
said Briere, a two-time All-Star who has scored 280 goals over 14
seasons, 118 in five seasons as a Flyer.
"We had a special relationship. We were close. I was lucky."

Briere has achieved fame and fortune playing hockey, but beyond that many who know him fairly well say that the good man he's become trumps everything he's ever done on ice.

Briere credits mom and dad for who he is.

Talking at length about his mother after a morning workout at Skate Zone the other day, Briere shared some memories.

"I have a condo in Florida … near Lauderdale,"
he said.
"I showed up the week after my parents were there for the first time. I can't tell you how many people would come up and say,
'We love your parents. They're so sweet, so nice.'
It's good to hear.

"Everywhere they went, they always made friends. They have a timeshare in Orlando. They made friends there. They made friends in Philly, made friends all over the country, and they would go meet up with them year after year."

Briere has been told he's a chip off the old block.

"You grew up watching your parents,"
he said.
"They're your heroes when you're growing up. They're the people that shape you."

Briere, who turns 35 next month, grew up in Gatineau, a Canadian town in Quebec that is directly across the
from downtown Ottawa. At 26 months, he was skating for the first time atop an above-the-ground swimming pool in his backyard, and later that winter, the backyard was turned into an ice rink for the neighborhood children.

"Every day before I got home from school, my mother would hose it down to make it was clean,"
Briere said.
"I was out there from 2 years old until I was 13. She was always doing everything for me."

Danny is the oldest of Robert and Constance Briere's two children, with little sister Guylaiane arrived three years to the day later.

"We had rules to follow,"
Briere said.
"It wasn't a military thing and it wasn't carefree. I think they were very fair. "It's the same line I try to use with my boys. I think kids don't need a friend; they need a parent."

Mom and dad also were a big help when Briere went through his divorce a few years ago. Every month or so, his parents would move into his Haddonfield, N.J., home for a stretch to help care for his boys, who split time living with both parents.

"One thing I know is she'll be there watching,"
he said.
"There's going to be someone pulling for us somewhere."


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I am 20 years old, and in july i lost my dad of 53 years old. he was my best friend... This story hits home. I hope the best for him, and his family.

I'm sorry to hear that. The 20's are an uncertain time in every person's life and our parents are the ones who guide us through that. It must be really tough to lose a parent like that but hopefully your relationship with your dad will help you find peace and courage :)

Very sad story about Briere's mom but hopefully he too will find peace and courage in the fact that he was home by her side when it happened. So often hockey players are always on the road and they miss out on family committments. This was ideal in the sense that he got to enjoy being around his mom and his mom knew that she was loved by everyone when she passed.


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